Two dramatic and poignant symbols that testify to the human tragedy that was the First World War are on display at the New Zealand Army Museum in Waiouru.
One is a sandstone grave marker from Gallipoli that in 1915 marked the resting place of a 34-year-old trooper of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, and the second is a substantial oak cross that marked the battlefield grave of a 20-year-old Otago medical student, killed just 17 days before the end of the war.
The sandstone grave marker originally identified the Gallipoli grave of 7/207 Trooper William Frederick Harding, 10 Nelson Squadron, Canterbury Mounted Rifles.
Harding was English by birth and served with the South African Constabulary during the Anglo–Boer War (1899–1902), seeing action in the Cape Colony and Orange Free State. After the war, he moved to New Zealand, but it’s not known where he lived or what he did as an occupation, although it is likely that he settled in the Nelson area.
He enlisted in the armed forces for WWI on August 16, 1914 – just 10 days after the declaration of war.
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment was formed in 1914 from the three Territorial Force mounted rifle regiments of the Canterbury Military District, which took in the 10th Mounted Rifles of Nelson, the 1st Mounted Rifles (Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry) of Canterbury and the 8th Mounted Rifles of South Canterbury. They formed part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.